Integrating Ghanaian palm oil smallholders into global markets

While oil palm is indigenous to West Africa, the region produces only six percent of the global palm oil which is not enough to meet the region’s demand. There are about 4 million hectares of palm oil in West Africa which is mostly producing low yields. The average yield of oil palm farms is around 4 tons of fresh fruit bunches per ha per year, which is only 25 percent of what could be produced on smallholdings. Poor agronomy, limited use of fertilizer and the use of low yielding planting materials are among the causes for low yields.

Palm oil smallholders in Ghana provide more than 70 percent of fresh fruit bunches required by processing mills, which supply major companies such as Unilever and Wilmar. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) provides an integrated framework for economic, social and environmental sustainability, thus enabling a transition from subsistence farming to rural entrepreneurship. With actors in the palm oil supply chain pushing for sustainable palm oil production through RSPO certification, smallholders risk being cut out of the supply chain if they do not attain RSPO certification or minimum quality standards.

Solidaridad envisions a world where all production and trade is done in a responsible way. With financial support from Johnson & Johnson, Cono Kaasmakers, RSPO and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the organization assisted two farmer groups comprising of 1 628 smallholders to attain RSPO certification. The project involves training of farmers in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP); and sensitizing smallholders on RSPO standards and certification requirements. It also promotes good governance within smallholder groups by putting in place effective internal control systems to prepare farmers for certification.

Improving the palm oil sector in Ghana

A combination of measures is required to make significant improvements in the oil palm sector. These measures include improving agronomic and management practices on farms, promoting sustainable oil palm development and mitigating environmental and social impacts. The FSP projects therefore seek to put these measures in place to make sustainable oil palm production the norm for smallholders in Ghana.

Project activities include:

  • Training of farmers in GAP and sustainable practices to improve yields;
  • Improving governance structures with the smallholder groups through the establishment of effective internal control systems;
  • Sharing lessons learnt with other oil palm processing companies who may wish to assist smallholders to go through RSPO certification;
  • and testing Ghana’s National Interpretation Guidance for smallholders and recommends modifications where necessary.

“Sustainable oil palm production is the new kid on the block and must be adopted by all if we want to be part of the Global Palm Oil Supply Chain,” says David Nunoo, Smallholder Manager of Twifo Oil Palm Plantation (TOPP). The project is implemented in partnership with TOPP and Benso Oil Palm Plantation (BOPP) palm oil mills, Unilever and Wilmar.